Mika Laitinen’s book rides the wave of this beer renaissance by divulging the ancient methods of brewing Sahti Farmhouse ale, which was a staple style of beer drunk by people in Viking societies.

More than just a hipster style of beer

You know the type. You’ve just ordered a beer at your local neighborhood bar or pub, and they are there: often berating the bartender for not having their preferred style of beer, a triple hopped double dunked Congolese sour ale served floating in a bowler hat. 

Some call them hipsters, others beer nerds, or some still call them things even worse. Yes, one of the unforeseen drawbacks of the recent craft beer boom is that there has never been more choice, more flavors, more styles of beer...and more “beer geeks”!

Sometimes though, someone with a deep passion and love of beer can pass on their knowledge and educated without the ego. This is the case for Mika Laitinen, whose book, Viking Age Brew: The Craft of Brewing Sahti Farmhouse Ale, is done with as much passion as there is little ego. 

For those that live around what I like to call the “former Viking backyard” - that is, the Nordic and Baltic regions – there was only really one style of beer that survived and thrived: farmhouse ale. 

Though the name of this style changes throughout the different countries - Maltøl (Norway), Sahti (Finland), Gotlandsdricke (Sweden), Koduõlu (Estonia), or Kaimiskas (Lithuania) - the style harks back to a time when beer was widely drunk seen as a safer option than water. 

Laitinen, as a Finn, knows this style of beer well.

A passion project

Laitinen’s mission is to bring this antique style of beer to life, making it accessible to the public – be they a “beer geek” or a total novice. 

He gives a brief overview of the history and origins of the style of beer whilst also describing, in detail, the day he spent with a Finnish sahti brewmaster who has been making beer the “Viking” way since the 1970s. 

Not only is there a step-by-step guide to brewing, but there are also beautifully shot photographs of the whole brewing process as well as some of the old-fashioned equipment used.

For those wanting to brush up on their general beer knowledge, Laitinen has included a “family tree of folk beers” and a whole chapter on the “landscape of European farmhouse ales.” 

The reader is taken on a whirlwind tour of the different styles and production methods used throughout the “former Viking backyard,” again with beautiful photographs illustrating the passion for this style of beer in these various countries.

The story of Lahti farmhouse ale, from its origins before the Viking Era (c. 750 – 1100 CE) right through to its modern revival thanks, in part, to hipsters and traditionalists, is carefully retold and researched. 

For the beer novice, there are multiple glossaries and etymologies so that the glorious terms, methods, and techniques to brew this beer are easily understood and appreciated.

Though this style and technique of crafting beer that dates back to the days when Vikings sailed the seas, Mika Laitinen’s book, a work of passion and love, should help this very old beer reach a very new audience. 

Read this book, and you’ll have a better appreciation, love, and knowledge of farmhouse ale than your average “beer geek.” Skål!

Viking Age Brew: The Craft of Brewing Sahti Farmhouse Ale by Mika Laitinen is available for purchase on Amazon here

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